Grade 1 students Ava Kingsnorth (left) and Ella Edwards held a paper torch as part of the Harmony Day celebrations at Rose Valley Elementary, Wednesday, Feb. 21. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

West Kelowna school honours Olympics for Harmony Day

Rose Valley Elementary had an Olympic themed event to celebrate diversity

Rose Valley Elementary is celebrating the 11th annual Harmony Day by honouring the Olympics.

Jayme Burk, seven, held a torch carrying the names of her classmates etched on paper with yellow and orange flames. She carried it with her classmate, as part of the celebrations taking place at Central Okanagan Public Schools Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Her favourite part was running with her friend. Out of Rose Valley’s 385 students, two students were chosen from each class to carry the torch around the school gymnasium. Onlooking students cheered them on.

Related: Harmony Day to become official

“We’re focusing on the themes of diversity, and friendship, and acceptance and that’s where the Olympics and Harmony Day sort of blend in so we thought we could combine the two,” said teacher Kumi Nittel, who puts on Harmony Day each year at the school, with her team of helpers.

“They’re all citizens of the world and the world is shrinking so much that they all need to have that diversity to live in our world. I think the way our curriculum is going now, the more real-world application you can put into classrooms increases their depth of learning,” said Nittel.

She said with the school district having students and parents of students from around the world, “Harmony Day just draws attention that we can be different, we can have different opinions, yet we can get along and find common ground.”

This year Nittel wore her brother-in-law’s jacket from the Winter Olympics of 1994, where he took silver in Norway as part of the men’s hockey team.

As a teacher for 20 years, Nittel said students are learning critical thinking and learning how to interact with one another through events like Harmony Day that ties in with the curriculum.

“We teach them a lot to think critically and to have those discussions, rather than just having a really polarized discussion of you’re right and I’m wrong. It’s ‘what’s your evidence for this, can we meet in the middle and have an understanding,’ and these are skills that are actually taught.”

Last year the school held games around the world, where Grade 6 students taught the younger classes about the different continents, she said. A buddy project was also held throughout the week where students matched bookmarks with each other and made new friends.

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